More than 70 percent of schools are considering starting an esports program, citing an opportunity to improve the campus experience for students and foster STEM learning, according to a survey from Extreme Networks and eCampus News.

The report, which surveyed 281 technical and administrative leaders across K-12 and higher education, found that 1 in 5 schools already have an esports program, and 71 percent are considering or might consider adding a program in the future.

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Only 9 percent of schools cited lack of student interest as a reason for not having a program.

The results underscore the momentum of the esports market and indicate that schools are embracing these programs to boost student recruitment and retention, better prepare students for the job market, and blend on-campus and online experiences.

Five important things to know about esports in education

1. Esports improves overall campus experience, drives recruitment, and diversifies learning: 88 percent of schools with esports programs in place said that their program diversifies extracurricular activities, 56 percent said it improves overall campus experience, 47 percent said it fosters interest in STEM, and 41 percent said it helps with student recruitment. Schools also find that it can help develop in-demand job skills. SUNY Canton, home to the first varsity esports squad in New York State and the first New York State team to join the National Association of College Esports (NACE) leverages its program to offer degrees in game design and development, technological communication, cybersecurity and graphics and multimedia.

2. League of Legends and Overwatch reign supreme: According to Esports Earnings, Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive are the top games in professional esports leagues, based on prize pool. Our survey reveals that at the school level, League of Legends and Overwatch are the most popular games, as 81 percent of schools involved compete in League of Legends and 50 percent compete in Overwatch, followed by Fortnite with 37 percent. Others with frequent mentions include FIFA, Hearthstone, Dragonball Fighter Z, Rocket League, and Super Smash Brothers.

3. Schools are using scholarships to attract esports talent: 20 percent of schools say they are already offering scholarships and financial aid to encourage students with esports experience to apply and enroll; and another 67 percent say they are considering it.

4. Fears of high program costs are misguided: 45 percent of schools cited cost as the primary barrier to launching an esports program, yet the survey found that 69 percent of schools with programs estimate annual expenses to be less than $10,000.

5. Designated esports facilities are on the rise, and the network is key: 59 percent of schools with an esports program either have a designated facility or are planning on building one. But to be successful, it’s critical these facilities have the proper IT infrastructure in place. The network is a critical component to building a program, interconnecting powerful gaming stations and myriad devices, minimizing latency, and ensuring a smooth spectator experience. Schools need to have a reliable, high-speed wired and wireless network with analytics to optimize programs and maximize value.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura


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